Registering chemicals (REACH)
Affected by Brexit?
If you manufacture or import one tonne or more per year of a chemical substance in the EEA (In this case, the 27 EU member states + the UK (until the end of the transition period) + Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway), you must record this in the REACH database. REACH stands for the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals.
REACH applies to all chemical substances, both those needed for industrial processes and those we use in our everyday lives, in paints, cleaning products, clothes, furniture and electrical appliances, for example. It thus affects most businesses in the European Economic Area (EEA).
Non-registered substances must not be marketed or used.
REACH applies to you if your business is:
- a manufacturer - you make chemicals for sale by your company or for supply to others.
- an importer - you buy individual chemicals, mixtures of chemicals or products such as clothes, furniture or plastic goods from outside the EU.
- a distributor - you store and place on the market chemicals or mixtures of chemicals.
- a downstream user - you use chemicals or mixtures of chemicals in your industry or occupation.
To comply with the regulation, you must identify and manage the risks associated with the substances you manufacture and market in the EU/EEA.
As a manufacturer or importer registering such substances, you must show the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) how they can be used safely and use a safety data sheet to inform potential users in the supply chain of any risk management measures they may need to take.
If your business is a downstream user, you have different obligations to meet. The main one is to take any risk management measures detailed in the safety data sheets. Check that your uses are covered in the registration dossiers and make contact with your suppliers and users in the supply chain.
Use the ECHA Navigator to identify your role and obligations under REACH or any exemptions that may apply to your business.
The booklet 'Chemical safety in your business' gives a good summary of the issues relevant to small businesses.
How REACH works
REACH introduces new marketing rules, covering substances in isolation, mixtures and substances used in goods. It ensures that the industry takes responsibility for:
- managing any risks that chemicals may pose to health and the environment
- providing users in the supply chain with appropriate safety information.
It also enables the European Union to take additional measures if complementary action at EU level is needed. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in Helsinki, Finland helps coordinate and implement all the necessary steps:
- Prior registration is compulsory where a company intends to manufacture or import a tonne or more per year of a particular substance.
- As part of the evaluation, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) examines information in the registration dossiers and all testing proposals to avoid unnecessary testing, especially on animals. National authorities assess substances in the light of specific concerns about human health and the environment.
- An authorisation is required for certain substances that raise particular concerns, to ensure that any risks they pose are properly controlled, and such substances are gradually replaced by safer alternatives once these are economically and technically viable.
- Restriction can limit or ban the production, marketing or use of certain substances if they pose an unacceptable risk to health or the environment.
Fees and charges
REACH requires fees and charges to be paid. The amounts charged and deadlines for payment depend on the type of submission concerned. Small and medium-sized enterprises pay reduced fees. Your business will also need to take into account other costs associated with REACH, including:
- data sharing
- chemical safety assessments
- research into substitutes for particular substances
You can reduce your costs significantly through close cooperation with the other parties involved, including preparing in good time.